“How can Church members help visitors to their wards and branches feel welcome?” Ensign, Apr. 1995, 60
Joanne Doxey, Church building hosting director.
I recently visited a ward where my husband and I were not known. We were there for two hours before anyone acknowledged us. We felt like intruders in a closed circle. When we began participating in a class discussion during the third hour, some of the members realized we were strangers and asked, “Who are you? Where are you from?” We found them to be delightful, warm, wonderful people once we got acquainted.
We are all hosts and hostesses in our individual wards. It is up to us as Latter-day Saints to reach out, welcome newcomers, and treat others with kindness and as children of God. But sometimes we tend to draw a line of privacy around ourselves, and it can be a little hard to cross that line and be friendly to strangers.
It is also up to us to do our part when we visit other wards. When we visit wards or branches, my husband and I feel it is our responsibility to be friendly to the members. Our smiles and friendliness help to break down barriers. But what can we do to help visitors of other faiths?
As I supervise hosts and hostesses who serve in Salt Lake City at the Church Office Building, the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, and the Relief Society Building, I observe a variety of actions and reactions in people. Most people are open and friendly; however, some can be very curt, and we could take offense at their words and actions. We can welcome even hard-to-love people if we don’t allow our feelings to get in the way. The Savior has taught us how to respond (see Luke 6:27–29; see also JST, Luke 6:29–30).
We need to regard others as our brothers and sisters and treat them as we would like to be treated. As the Savior said, “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matt. 7:12).
The Lord loves all his children, not just members of the Church. People within or outside our ward boundaries should feel welcome at our Church meetings. They are all God’s children, and they are all potential members of the Church.
We can have a positive influence on everyone with whom we come in contact. When new people come to our wards and branches, we should welcome them, tell them who we are, and try to be helpful and friendly. We need to radiate the happiness we have found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In hosting visitors to the Church buildings in downtown Salt Lake City, we find that visitors respond to a kind, friendly greeting. Visitors are often impressed with a host or hostess who treats them with acceptance, and many want to know why we treat them so kindly. The answer, of course, is found in the teachings of Jesus: “As I have loved you, … love one another” (John 13:34).
Visitors should not leave as strangers, and they should leave feeling better than when they came. For newcomers who seem withdrawn, it may help to try to talk to them about something we have in common.
The counsel of the late Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve applies not only to longstanding friends but also to new acquaintances: “We should lose ourselves in being involved and in being able to take friends from where they are and leave them better” (The Measure of Our Hearts, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991, p. 114). People respond to friendliness.
We could bless many lives if we resolved to look for opportunities to lift and serve others at church, especially the “strangers within our gates.” We can be assured that the Lord will direct us in our welcoming and loving his children, that they be “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints” (Eph. 2:19).